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It takes a village idiot – sorry, I mean of course a ‘trickster’ – to vote No to Lisbon according to Fintan O’Toole… June 25, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics, Uncategorized.
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Oh dear. There’s something about Fintan O’Toole. I don’t know what. When he’s on form he’s good enough. He was better and I’m not sure what happened, but sometime around the mid 1990s I began to stop reading his pieces on a regular basis. When he’s not on form he’s a sort of anti-John Waters – whose work I still find near impossible not to give the once over, I fear the day he retires – churning out stuff which strays worryingly close to arguments about ineffable and impossible to determine arguments about ‘character’.

Not incidentally that Waters isn’t up to top form. He surely is, not least with his most recent column on Lisbon where:

If it could be said that the Irish electorate, after due consideration of the merits of the Lisbon Treaty, had decided to vote No, then this might be cause for all Irish democrats to celebrate. But that is not what happened last week. Judging from the intelligence thus far accumulated about what I will loosely call the logic underlying the vote, the most effective slogan of the campaign appears to have been, “If you don’t know, vote No”. The outcome, then, was a disgrace, not because of the content of the decision but because of the justifications offered for it.

We. Have. Disgraced. Ourselves.

Again!

But returning to O’Toole yesterday he provided a fascinating column in the Irish Times. For if the Lisbon Treaty exercises me as a political issue, for Fintan this is, in a curious echo of a John Waters text, a .’… hangover of evasion and duplicity in [Irish] political life…’.. And not just any hangover, as we shall see.

How so, you may enquire?

O’Toole replies:

FORGET about the Eurobarometer surveys and the EU’s collective psychoanalysis of the Irish after the Lisbon debacle. If you really want to understand the nature of the contemporary Irish psyche and the way it has knocked the European project off course, think Carlsberg. I don’t mean to suggest that, when we voted on Lisbon, we were, as the old codger in The Fast Show used to say, “awfully drunk at the time”. I mean rather that there’s a set of Carlsberg ads tailored for the Irish market that could have been for the successful No campaign.

Pray continue…

One is set in a bar in New York. A young Irishman leaves his mates and goes to chat up an attractive blonde woman sitting at the bar. She tells him that he has to either go back to his mates or face her hulking boyfriend who is just looming into view. Instead, he embraces her and introduces himself to her boyfriend as her brother. The other ad is set in a bar in some non-English-speaking country. The Irish lads are invited, in a threatening way, to do something Irish. The options are either to run like hell or start trying to dance a humiliating jig. Instead they start speaking bits of pigeon Irish as if it were soulful poetry: “Is maith liom cáca milis. Agus Sharon Ní Bheoláin.” The tag line for both ads is “It’s not just A or B. There’s probably always a C”.

I think I’m beginning to see what he’s getting at, but lest we stray from this rhetorical path he neatly spells it out…

It is a perfect encapsulation of the way we approached, and continue to approach, the whole Lisbon process. Option A is that we buy in, broadly speaking, to the European project and accept that the rules that can be agreed among 27 member states are inevitably compromises in which nobody gets quite what they want. Option B is that we pull back from that project into a semi-detached relationship with the EU. So we go for Option C, a vague belief that we can squirm away from the hard choices and through our marvellous charm, cunning and persuasiveness, get something completely different.

“Our” marvellous charm, cunning and persuasiveness? Surely not.

No, apparently according to Fintan, actually it is surely…

The view of the world that underlies those Carlsberg ads and the mentality expressed in our approach to Lisbon is a very old fantasy, embodied in the trickster. In folk tales, the trickster is a weak figure, an ordinary peasant, who gets one over on the strong – the king, the lords, the bishop – by evading and inventing, by ducking and weaving.

Good Christ. This is not merely an echo of Waters, it’s his schtick imported lock stock and smoking barrel directly into the heart of an O’Toole column. Because of course we are tricksters. It reminds me of the colloquial argument that used to be trotted out time and again that the Irish electorate was the ‘most sophisticated’ in the world because of the vast intricacy of our (not at all unique) proportional representation system of voting and the unlikely conjunctions that this threw up. Ah, how we laughed in the Workers’ Party at meetings during the 1980s as we pondered yet another centre right coalition brought to us by this miracle of cosmopolitan political complexity – the Irish voter (although surely the joke was on us in DL – and Labour – in the 1990s when we managed to deliver Fine Gael to the life support machine just in the nick of time?).

Of course the rather more prosaic truth was that the results of elections, and referendum tell us next to nothing about the character, or otherwise, of a people. Were we geniuses in 1995 with a divorce referendum that saw us bring it over the line by a few thousand, or merely indecisive? Neither, naturally. At that point in time more people, slightly, were persuaded that divorce would not usher in a social catastrophe than weren’t. Or what about the 1968 referendum on PR. One further demonstration of our savvy, or just a basic common sense response to an attempt to tip the playing field in a permanent Fianna Fáil direction. No. Dubious self-congratulatory cant about our peculiar genius as the economy slid ever further into decline didn’t quite cut it.

But to return to Fintan…

[The trickster] embodies the wish-fulfilment of the weak. You can’t shape the world, you can only poke it in the eye. As Robert Darnton has put it: “Tricksterism is a kind of holding operation. It permits the underdog to grasp some marginal advantage by playing on the vanity and stupidity of his superiors. But the trickster works within the system, turning its weak points to his advantage and therefore ultimately confirming it … Tricksterism provided a way of coping with a harsh society instead of a formula for overthrowing it.”

Well, yes and no. Let’s put aside the near-preposterous conflation of a political event, the Lisbon Treaty referendum and this unlikely concept of ‘tricksterism’ that we’re being asked to digest. Assume for one second that tricksterism exists at all in a substantial form… if so it is almost per definition an individual response rather than a collective or societal one, so therefore it seems reasonable to argue that it couldn’t possibly sit at the root of a transformational project. But that’s a big assumption. After all, why not throw in a couple of other supposed Irish traits as well, ones which actually do seem to be reflected in societal or collective responses, such as social conservatism, stolidity, a certain passivity in the face of authority. Each or all of these could be used as a vehicle for ruminations upon the Treat referendum as well. But of course they wouldn’t suit the Carlsberg hook – which leads me in a different direction, while it is true that a certain fecklessness has entered the vocabulary of Irish advertising, one that is unpleasantly sneering and competitive (example A: the Cadbury’s Snack advert with overt bullying in it) I think that tells us more about twenty and thirty something ad execs than some underlying malaise in Irish society. Although, I’ll be the first to admit I may be wrong.

And inevitably we move towards apotheosis…

We inherited this trickster mentality from our colonial past, but we’ve had a very hard job leaving it behind.

Did we? Did we indeed? Or could it simply be that in a society of many millions there will be a broad range of human responses none of which can be easily pinned down rather than having to cast back towards contexts which very few of us now have any direct experience of. Which is not to deny the mythic power of the colonial period, but, let’s just say that the experience was probably a lot more mixed in terms of perceptions and indeed acquiescence on the part of a significant portion of the population than the argument O’Toole uses seems to admit.

Culturally, tricksterism has been our great strength – much classic Irish literature is about evading history and weaving a way around the apparent certainties of the English language. But politically, it has been our besetting weakness. It is a mentality that takes weakness and lack of control for granted and sets about dodging a way around them.

We really need a bit more evidence to substantiate this, and certainly more than this minor character trait blown up into an explanation as to why Lisbon was lost. And consider the following… like Waters it dances around the issue rather than tackling it head on. Does O’Toole suggest a clear way through the mess? Does he acknowledge that this is a political and diplomatic problem? He does not. Instead he evades the issue, which is more than ironic considering that this is precisely what he implicitly accuse others of doing by voting No.

This political tricksterism, this art of ducking and diving, of endless evasion, is forgivable in the weak. It expresses a view of the world that has helped to get the oppressed through their miserable days for much of human history. But at what point does a society grow up and realise that it’s not weak anymore? Could we have reached that point now, where we’re actually willing to live with the consequences of the way we’ve voted rather than looking for someone to save us by concocting a phoney plan C?

Or could it be that the column is hooey and that we can look to actual material reasons why people voted Yes and No which depend in no way upon dubious and – arguably – patronising assessments of our national character, like for example a pathetically inept Yes campaign? Sure could!

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Comments»

1. Hugh Green - June 25, 2008

O’Toole’s first sentence reveals the article’s true intention. The rest is just tricksterism.

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2. ejh - June 25, 2008

We inherited this trickster mentality from our colonial past, but we’ve had a very hard job leaving it behind.

Isn’t this a classic statement of how the Dublin professional classes think: we are modern and enlightened and liberated from our past, the rest of you are a bunch of ignorant peasants?

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3. Libero - June 25, 2008

Yeah, I was scratching my head yesterday as I came to the end of that column.

What I think is really bugging O’Toole, apart from the result itself, is something he percieves as rank dishonesty: the claims from the No side that the Treaty could be renegotiated. This sentiment was expressed mainly by Sinn Féin and Libertas, usually along the lines of “let’s get a better deal”. It appeared to me, and to many people, to have been thoroughly disingenuous and insincere claim. And I think O’Toole expressed his frustration better (though not all that well) in his column last week, where he urged – tongue in cheek, I think! – for Sinn Féin to be sent off to renegotiate for Ireland.

So when he wrote this week about the “trickster” Plan C, that’s what he’s getting at again. I think!

Really, his frustration could and should be summed up in a couple of sentences rather than dragging it across a couple of columns.

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4. Donagh - June 25, 2008

Damn, there goes my incoherent half-written post up in smoke. The whole tone of O’Toole’s articles before the vote was, ‘now don’t go and do something stupid children and vote no’. Now after the vote the Irish are being referred to as tricksters (with his faux post-colonial analysis). What he really means, however is that we are no better than errant children run amok, who think they’re being clever when they don’t do what their parents tell them. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that people often voted No because in their arguments the Yes camp treated them like children.

His evasion of dealing with the practical issue of Europe as it is now goes to the heart of it, I think. If he wants the Irish political class to be more engaged in Europe surely he should be writing about what can be done, and to describe what sort of country we should be in Europe. Its a complex matter, but much more important than admonishing the No voters as trickesters.

The whole column was a disgrace from someone you would imagine should know better.

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5. Conor McCabe - June 25, 2008

God. He sounds like a poor man’s David McWilliams.

And David McWilliams ALREADY SOUNDS LIKE a poor man’s David McWilliams.

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6. Jim Monaghan - June 25, 2008

Didnt’t the Cruiser feel that Mary Holland was being fooled by the natives in Derry so he got rid of her from the Observor.
Perhaps the No side should sponsor a tour by Fintan and co. I am sure that many Yess would change to No after a patronising rant.
To be serious I would like a debate between the Left Nos and the Left Yess, without lies and distortions.PANA, Sinn Fein, etc. are not Ganley or COIR. I accept that Finatn O’Toole is not Sarkozy or even Browne (In the Brown case I hope)
I don’t want to be told I am a Spucker or a Trotskyite (Courtesy of One Green TD). Well actually I am a Trotskyist but on my own terms.
Could we talk about a vision of Irealnd and Europe with social rights and developing not into a rival Empire.I am not a little Irelander I think fully independent nations states are a mirage. But I don’t want to be ignored because I live in a small country.
Could the Yes people just stop and reflect and then engage in a debate?

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7. John Palmer - June 25, 2008

Jim – Good idea. Where would you like to begin?

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8. Claire O'Brien - June 25, 2008

In his broad sweep of Irish literature, he neglects to mention that across Europe and Asia there’s a tradition of tricksterism in literature – there is, for example a swathe of 19 Century German plays in the genre of Dienerkomoedie – or servant comedies, in which the bauld landlord gets his due come-uppance, generally for taking his clever servant for granted.

[quote]As Robert Darnton has put it: “Tricksterism is a kind of holding operation. It permits the underdog to grasp some marginal advantage by playing on the vanity and stupidity of his superiors. But the trickster works within the system, turning its weak points to his advantage and therefore ultimately confirming it … Tricksterism provided a way of coping with a harsh society instead of a formula for overthrowing it.”
[/quote]

Now had O’Toole considered that from a different angle, he might have stumbled on the fact that a significant number of people voted No because they saw it as a holding mechanism – a way of saying “thus far and no further for now.”

In that light, the problem is then not with the trickster putting the brakes on the master for a while, but with the master neglecting to learn from his repeated experiences of being caught short. In that way, it could be said that the French and the Dutch were tricksters too…

…because there is a little more to tricksterism in any context than simply evading, ducking and diving. The point is, that by wedging something, albeit temporarily between the spokes on the wheels of the great machine, you stall its progress – albeit temporarily.

To lose the first time round might have been considered a misfortune but to lose on the second run of more or less the same document might just be carelessness on the part of the landlord who may find himself continually the victim of such tricks until there is a meaningful pause for reflection and an attempt to bridge the ‘them and us’ gap.

Maybe – and it’s just a thought – the point of the trickster is that he is only relevant where there is, as the quote above suggests “vanity and arrogance” on behalf of his superiors. That is the corollary of the thesis that O’Toole presents, but one that is less palatable for him to consider – on a national and a European level.

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9. Bartholomew - June 25, 2008

“it could be said that the French and the Dutch were tricksters too”
Absolutely. And in fact Darnton was talking about French folk tales, and by extension the French ‘national character’.

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10. Tomaltach - June 25, 2008

This latest from O’Toole really is terrible stuff. But he is given to this sort of grand theorising. When he gets carried away with it, we get a really horrid piece.

True last week he mischievously played with the idea of sending SF to renegotiate. But here is one of the country’s main liberal-progressive commentators, who some have considered one of our top intellectuals (!), and what has he offered us over two articles by way of real analysis. Far far less than we have seen here on these pages.

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11. Jim Monaghan - June 25, 2008

Jim – Good idea. Where would you like to begin?
Possibly by agreeing some statement of common values.
What do we mean by a citizen?
What are and should be common rights and duties? I think Tom Paine
Some reformist demands targetting those who can decide whether they pay taxes or not. The French have a case on our corperation tax. I think of the U2 company moving abroad. Perhaps rather than threatening compliant Ireland they should focus on Monaco, Andorra etc.
Denis O’Brien moving also. One law (tax) for the rich and another for the poor.I would like to pay an EU bureaucrat rate of income tax.
Less hyprocrisy about globalisation. There is naked fear among the employees of multinationals.Look at Hibernia.
We may not be able to do much about a lot of changes and threats coming down the line but at least we should be told the truth.Being told by relatively rich people there is nothing to worry about does not wash with those bearing the brunt of the changes.
I appreciate that this is not just about the Lisbon treaty, but I think that a lot of the No side voters are worried and took the opportunity to tell the powers that be so.
Is European Unity a visionary project that will enhance the lives of it’s citizens or is it just an agreement between elites and their clients.
A historical parallel. German unity caused by the events of 1848 versus Bismarkian unity later on. I am for a European project that is driven by and is for the popular masses and not for one put together by the advocates of an Imperial project.
But it should be real with real measures not just a preamble with nice stuff but a grim reality in the small print.
For one example I know fish is a limited resource but Fisher people are not the only ones who feel that they will end up like English miners. And it is not just a question of compensation.
The Yes people who believe in the European project shouild try and engage with the fears real and perceived of the masses. Stop insulting them.
This is not meant to be a finished program, I will leave that to the Sparts

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12. chekov - June 25, 2008

“Tricksterism provided a way of coping with a harsh society instead of a formula for overthrowing it”

But O’Toole is calling for capitulation to the “harsh society” rather than overthrowing it which makes his critique of tricksterism dishonest and inverted compared to the critique he quotes.

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13. Niall - June 25, 2008

I’m surprised to see leftists having the view that tricksterism isn’t a feature of Irish political or cultural life.

I voted no but I still think O’Toole synopsises mainstream Irish attitudes very well, despite some of his assumptions about the reasons people voted no.

The bit in his piece about tricksterism manifesting itself at a collective level as populism is intriguing, and is as plausible a factor as any as to why we don’t have explicitly ideological political parties or explicitly ideologically media. Being a conviction politician doesn’t allow you the same room to adapt to the changing whims of the crowd.

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14. WorldbyStorm - June 25, 2008

Hmmm…. the thing though Niall is that chekov seems right. If this ‘trickster’ response does exist – which as I say I don’t think it does in any meaningful way – then why is O’Toole certain that his belief that if it indeed played a part in the recent referendum actually evidence of a logical response that people had to something they didn’t feel comfortable with? In other words why only go to the point where it’s a negative, and not go further to the point where it’s a positive.

And while I’d agree broadly that the ‘cute hoor’ is a facet of some elements in public life, these are still individual responses, not collective ones.

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15. John Palmer - June 25, 2008

Jim – I can sign upto just about everything you outline above regarding citizens rights, telling the truth about globalisation, a Europe driven by the interests of the masses etc. The question in an age of hyper globalisation is how we realise those goals and values. If I have understood you correctly you believe the “nation state” is the sole reliable democratic instrument for confronting globalisation (I would prefer to say confronting global inter-dependence). But national states are a relatively recent historical construct. They have in the past played a variety of progressive and reactionary roles (depending on circumstances) but they are all today relatively powerless in the face of the forces of hyper globalisation.
The case for European integration today is that it provides a significant platform for the politics of managing globaliation, regulating globalisation and (hopefully) eventually democrtaising and socialising globalisation. Of course sooner or later we will need global democratic governance (in left language – “From a Socialist United States of Europe to a Socialist World Federation). The stark truth today is not merely cannot one not have “socialism in one country” – a quasi social democratic style regulated capitalism is also no longer possible in one country.
I am tempted by your analogy with German unification after 1848 to cite Marx’s denunciation of the opposition to unification from some radical democrats and some socialists in some of the German regional statets and prinicipalities because of their opposition to to “Prussianism.” Nor will I cite his denunciation of referendums and plebicites as anti-democratic Bonapartist trickery. Lets leave biblical exegesis out of this.
My basic point is that the Lisbon Treaty adds nothing to the existing state of neo-liberal policies in the EU. But it does offer “a modicum” of counter vailing democratic, social and environmental committments which the left desperately needs as a basis to build on. Without the treaty the left will be weaker. Indeed I reiterate my point that the fundamental impulse of the anti treaty votes (everywhere) is towards the right and towards populism. You mention the fisheries crisis. But the EU has desperately tried to get national state governments to accept policies designed to limit catches in our almost exhausted seas together with generous compensation for fishermen. The states refused to allow this line to pass and consequently the fiheries crisis is worse than ever. Incidentally most trade unionists and socialists elsewhere in Europe are appalled by the way in which Ireland has led the rush towards ever lower corporate taxation. How can any one on the Irish left support this. But (in my view wrongly) the Lisbon Treaty has copper bottomed Dublin’s right to pursues this strategy.
Let me elave there for now. I look forward to your ideas.

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16. Pete - June 25, 2008

I voted No but O’Toole is right – of course Irish politics is dominated by tricksters. I support the EU project to an extent – I support the Lisbon treaty if it was to be fully implemented in Ireland. What I was voting against was what O’Toole has ability encapsulated here as ‘tricksterism’- I list some of our great tricksters –
1) The one and only Fianna Fail – a party whose ideology and reason to exist is ‘tricksterism’ – that sickening powder puff Ahern being perhaps its greatest manifestation ever. That lump of Offaly lard was trying more of it with that ‘trust me’ I haven’t even read it but hey what do rules and laws matter we’ll pull a fast one on Europe anyway.
2) Libertas – finally we have it – what has been threatening for a while – fairly open foreign intervention on behave of a section of the US establishment. Ganley is our newsiest trickster – a no vote raises the question of trickster financing higher up the agenda than a Yes would have.
3) Sinn Fein – we’re this we’re that – we want to rebuild that failed Fianna Fail careerist back up now by pretending we are a party of the hard Left.
We can go on – O’Toole is right – is it neo-colonialism? I personally put it in large part down to the peadeos in their robes and the shite they have inflicted on our nation for 150 years.

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17. WorldbyStorm - June 26, 2008

Can institutions be ‘tricksters’? I’d see all this a bit differently, in other words that there’s always a search for some character flaw to explain away our perceived misdeeds, and we see this in O’Toole and elsewhere, whereas there is no character flaw and Irish politicians, and Irish social and political life is pretty much like life anywhere else. Some of it is very good, some is very bad. There’s room for significant improvement. There are variations, and emphases, but are we really that sui generis say compared with public life in other European countries? Quite a few examples spring to mind…

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18. Pete - June 26, 2008

In my view yes we are…and quite simply this is the failure of the Left to bring about a Left/Right division – tricksterism is a mainstay of a large swath of right wing politics from Cameron, that sham in Italy to Hitler – there is some none trickster rght wing politics, in Ireland I would see that as the simple representation of middle class and captailist intrests of FG and PD but then we have sore of the rats of FF representing themslves cloaked in whatever your having yourself – a path SF may well follow. And lets face facts – I can not think of any country in Europe that has not had a – even for at least a short period, even if foreign enforced a Left led government – here we have had government by the Right and Rightwing rats

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19. Niall - June 26, 2008

I think what’s unique in Irish politics is the antipathy to ideology. All the main parties want to converge somewhere around the centre; this is a relatively recent trend in European politics but seems to have always been the defining characteristic of Irish politics.

Even the PDs, perhaps the party most wedded to a prescriptive political model – were at pains to lable themselves a “party of ideas, not ideology”.

The result is populist politics, where what you believed yesterday need not get in the way of what it is convenient for you to do tomorrow.

This attitude is also evident in our press. Whereas European newspapers unashamedly align themselves with a particular political worldview, Irish newspapers have exalted the concept, if not the practice, of objectivity. The reason, I suspect, is so that they can shift their positions to suit whatever way they feel the public mood is going without alienating large sections of their readership. It is a safe, cynical and arrogant outlook.

Institutions can’t be ‘tricksters’ but institutions that operate by serving the trickster come to be amorphous, absorbative, mealy-mouthed and malleable and capable of holding contradictory views at the same time without regarding itself as hypocritical. The guiding directive is opportunity, not principle.

I don’t know if post-colonialism is totally to blame: the small size of the nation lends itself to stroke politics as well.

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20. WorldbyStorm - June 26, 2008

I’d tend to agree with Niall. Ideology has always been problematic in Irish politics. It may be colonial, at least indirectly in that we never developed a significant industrial base nationwide, and where it did exist class politics was distorted by religious/national identifications – although that ties in with your point Pete. But I don’t blame anyone for that. Societies develop in different ways. After all, even in highly industrialised classes with strong traditional working classes the left has often been on the back foot. Compare and contrast the number of years Labour in the UK was in power as against the Conservatives. It’s sort of chastening how poorly the left manages to do.

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21. Pete - June 26, 2008

It is not even comparable how badly the Left has done in Ireland compared to Britain – from the foundation of the British Labour movement until 1979 Left politics were in the ascendancy either by actually being in power post WWII or in conservative response to it – here, well forget about it… people who think otherwise I fear maybe tricking themselves.

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22. WorldbyStorm - June 26, 2008

In a way. You’re right the structural basis for the left here is quite different… but that still doesn’t evade the fact that the left internationally has been less powerful than it could potentially be.

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23. dave - June 27, 2008

oh come on WBS, you want to be FO`T so much it hurts to watch sometimes

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24. WorldbyStorm - June 27, 2008

Ah, dave. Ah, dave… I’m almost touched by your words. Or I’m just touched as my old, and now departed Gran, would say. F O’T symbolises for me all that’s not quite right about the Irish left, or rather an element of same. Finger wagging, ITphiliac, suspicious of Republicanism if not indeed downright hostile without actually thinking it through, Labourish but not quite willing to go the distance and be directly involved, pretentious in the sense that ‘culture’, capital C has to be dragged into everything (I’m resolutely middle brow, ejh will attest to that ;) )… humourless, and it goes on.

Okay, finger wagging I will concede, sort of… but fundamentally you see I don’t ‘want’ to be anyone, least of all him, for all my faults I quite like who I am.

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25. Jim Monaghan - June 27, 2008

“It is not even comparable how badly the Left has done in Ireland compared to Britain ”
Could I cjhallenge this mantra. Is Ireland (26 County bit) more or less social democratic (I presume that is what people mean by Labourism).
Given the relative poverty I would not see much difference. I fact I would gues that more industry was owned by the state here.
In fact Labourism does not seem much of an improvement of FF.
I fact the link with the unions and labour her is really at the top not organic and in England that organic connection is fairly atrophied.
Radicalism in Ireland has tended to come form Republicanism where ther is a debate on what kind of Ireland.
Just some random thoughts

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26. ejh - June 27, 2008

That high?

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27. Pete - June 27, 2008

Is that the level of ideological debate that we are actually willing to accept this shite that FF are ‘social democratic’ – my thoughs – they are clientist/corporatist/criminal – even though they are under threat Britain has the reminders of its real social democratic/Labour phase – a non-sectarian school system, the NHS and properly developed intellectual Left, here, well what? And this stuff about Republicanism and radicalism – to me republicanism is just a cloak of sentimental emotionality which any group of malcontents can cloak themselves in – sometimes it has been Left inclined groups, or actually Left groups i.e. those who developed into the WP but lump PSF etc in with the Left just because they cloak themselves in such a-historical rubbish is one of the key problems with the development of an Irish left.

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28. Pete - June 27, 2008

‘Labourism does not seem much of an improvement of FF.’ – that sounds a lot like the worst trot rot that its all or nothing socialist revoulition – to lump most Labour activists, of the UK or here, in with the Irish criminals of FF is a sick insult to geniune people

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29. Jim Monaghan - June 27, 2008

Right
When did Labor here challenge sectarian control of education.
When did they challenge vested interests in the Health Services.
In all the coalitions with both FF and Fg the Labour ministers were no different than their colleagues.
The Nye Bevan of Ireland Noel Browne was unwelcome in Labour.
They make Labour here into New Labour they don’t have to do much.
All the Left movement outside the sects are composed for the most part of non Labour people.
The old Militant mantra that the workingclass is in Labour is patently untrue.
The Trade Union hacks are more comfortable doing deals with FF.
Loo at Gilmore and co. the end of their radical pahse was a realisation that their home was in Labour. Harris went the fuill distance (he always does) and went to first FG and then FF.
Lemass had it righ Labour will wrestle with its conscience and Labout will always win. In my opinion with Brown and Merigan dead and gone so nearly is the conscience. I suppose Roger Cole and a few others keep a flag waving but that uis a nuch wekened force.
Higgins, I am sorry to say that he would be happy as mionsiter of Arts in any coalition.
As regards the Republicans (in this case SINN FEIN) well they I think hoped for an offer but the Greens got there first.
The rank and file. Maybe I am wrong but this is just what is left of a radical thing of the 60s and 70s. I don’t see any new blood.
Social Reforms.Well everyone claims credit for them. I think feminism and other movement made the differnce down the years, certainly not timid Labour.
Sorry for annoying people I would probably quite like if I knew them and who probably like opcit did good thing as members of various movements but their activity in labour I think amounted to getting resolutions passed which did not enter into any programme of government.
For me Social Democratic is neither Social or democratic but a machine to get elected. On a personal basis I would guess that FF is probably more clientistic than either FG or Labour. But thats about all
Oh Labour activists. In the UK they are getting to be as scarce as hens teeth.Alas, they are not going anywhere else and are not being replaced. Op cit discussion on the rise of the Tories. This caused by Social Democracy Blair style.
Oh I cannot see any difference between Blair and Quinn. Gilmore is more of a Browne.
God, I feel very jaundiced and i is happy friday

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30. anonymous - June 27, 2008

‘I don’t understand this, so I’m voting No!’ is the preferred and flattering explaination of the No vote by those who wanted a Yes vote.
They ask me to to believe that no Yes voter at all voted yes for shaky reasons eg ,’I don’t understand this, but clever chaps in FF, FG and Labour do, and are unanimous it’s good for me, so I’m voting Yes!’.

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31. Pax - June 28, 2008

Niall wrote: European newspapers unashamedly align themselves with a particular political worldview

But if you go by the analyses of the media by Chomsky and Herman, (or other real-world market analyses) the actual reportage is constricted and beholden to power, and the market.
So those self-described, or aligned, leftist/liberal papers and their ‘opposition’ on the right really offer a faux choice.* Certainly when you objectively look at their reportage and opinions.

In contrast, our situation could be seen as a more openly honest press in not pretending to have this faux-ideological veneer over corporate-media-outlet-A and corporate-media-outlet-B.

You don’t have that two-facedness here while, of course at the same time, still having the consequences of market selection, corporate ownership and government source dependences within the mainstream news media. Which still means, (certainly on the big issues), practically all the opinions are the same.

*
as is evident with practically every post on the excellent medialens

http://www.medialens.org/
http://www.medialens.org/alerts/07/071120_invasion_a_comparison.php

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32. Pax - June 28, 2008

Pete wrote ‘Labourism does not seem much of an improvement of FF.’ – that sounds a lot like the worst trot rot that its all or nothing socialist revoulition – to lump most Labour activists, of the UK or here, in with the Irish criminals of FF is a sick insult to geniune people

You mean New Labour in the UK and the Irish Labour party which is steadfastly following in their footsteps yes?
I’m amazed that this double-think on social democracy still exists after the Blair years but I really don’t see how your logic stands when they are in many cases further to the right than the Tories in the UK.

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2008/05/20/nothing-left-to-fight-for/
“The most rightwing government Britain has had since the Second World War does not deserve to be re-elected.”

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33. Garibaldy - June 29, 2008

Monbiot may be right. But better the current most right wing government since the war than the still more right wing Tory alternative.

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34. WorldbyStorm - June 29, 2008

Pax, I’d have to agree – however reluctantly given the record of the NL crowd – with Garibaldy. Blair et al may well pretend to be social democrats, but by any serious reading they’re not, and when it comes down to it it’s like Gore Vidal once said that the space between the Democrats and the Republicans may be minimal but that’s the space – and I paraphrase – that makes the difference. A Tory alternative is no alternative at all, and in some respects is the equivalent of people voting for McCain because Clinton didn’t win. The only serious course I can see is to work to make the Labour party a genuine as distinct from rhetorical vehicle. It’s not pretty and it’s not easy and it may well involve a defeat for it at the next election, but the Tories are worse in precisely the same way as Bush in 2000 was worse than Gore, and in ways which then were unknowable, but now we are only too familiar with. I actually think that the discrediting of the Blair crowd might actually present an opening to left/progressive forces inside Labour – possibly for the first time in twenty years or more…

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35. Pax - June 29, 2008

Monbiot may be right. But better the current most right wing government since the war than the still more right wing Tory alternative.

Garibaldy, I think it’s a pretty close call but I agree with you that it probably would be a slightly worse situation –albeit in the short term and thanks to New Labour. And that’s what I’m getting at -a longer term strategy which recognises that reform from within NL is futile. NL has done an awful lot of the groundwork and hard lifting for the incoming Tory government.

In other words, creatures like Blair and Brown move the centre enough to make it easy for a much more rightwing Tory government, making it’s imprint much worse. If Tony Blair was worse than Thatcher then it behoves the Tories to pull their socks up, get in there more with the CBI, the US etc and to triangulate further to the right of even Blair.

To use Toynbee’s fantasy-based* cant on the bemoaning of what the Tories will do to Labour’s “cherished projects” such as in privatisation, PFI, War-on-Terror, attacking worker’s rights, preemptive war doctrine, Iraq, attacks on civil liberties, attacking consumer’s rights, being-the-most-neoliberal-government-at-the-EU-and-WTO-(etc)-since-1997, etc etc.

Well I suppose the Tories can (now) only make them worse. That’s the point she was making yes?….

*
http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2008/06/27/the-gig-is-up-polly-toynbee-talks-of-replacing-brown/

A Tory alternative is no alternative at all, and in some respects is the equivalent of people voting for McCain because Clinton didn’t win.

WBS, I’m not suggesting voting for the Tories or for McCain or for New Labour. I’m talking about a multi-election strategy where a new party or structure emerges. Afterall Labour would not be here now if not for the decline of the old Liberal party? So it certainly can be done.
Basically I don’t see how those on the left could continue support for the “most right wing government since the war” leading to an even worse alternative from the right. Only for the cycle continuing ad infinitum. I don’t see any of that as a real democratic choice and unfortunately I don’t see reform coming from within the Labour party.

The US comparison is apt I think in that it was Clinton and Gore that led to the ‘monster’ Bush. Under Clinton the Democrats lost 70 Congressional and Senate seats – and both houses of Congress – to the Republicans. The Clinton/Gore ticket led to Bush. ( http://sandiego.indymedia.org/en/2006/07/116537.shtml ) and the policies used by him. Despite mainstream received wisdom and our view of the Northern peace process input, there’s hardly a sliver of a difference between those administrations.

The same pattern is repeating with Obama. Obama’s Senior Working Group on National Security team is mostly made up of people who supported Clinton’s policies towards Iraq (Anthony Lake, Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright).* His views on Iran are well known and he continues to take on the Republicans policies.

*
Surprise! … Obama’s people are Clinton’s people
http://therealnews.com/t/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=1748

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36. Pax - June 29, 2008

Monbiot may be right. But better the current most right wing government since the war than the still more right wing Tory alternative.

Garibaldy, I think it’s a pretty close call but I agree with you that it probably would be a slightly worse situation –albeit in the short term and thanks to New Labour. And that’s what I’m getting at -a longer term strategy which recognises that reform from within NL is futile. NL has done an awful lot of the groundwork and hard lifting for the incoming Tory government.

In other words, creatures like Blair and Brown move the centre enough to make it easy for a much more rightwing Tory government, making it’s imprint much worse. If Tony Blair was worse than Thatcher then it behoves the Tories to pull their socks up, get in there more with the CBI, the US etc and to triangulate further to the right of even Blair.

To use Toynbee’s fantasy-based* cant on the bemoaning of what the Tories will do to Labour’s “cherished projects” such as in privatisation, PFI, War-on-Terror, attacking worker’s rights, preemptive war doctrine, Iraq, attacks on civil liberties, attacking consumer’s rights, being-the-most-neoliberal-government-at-the-EU-and-WTO-(etc)-since-1997, etc etc.

Well I suppose the Tories can (now) only make them worse. That’s the point she was making yes?….

*
http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2008/06/27/the-gig-is-up-polly-toynbee-talks-of-replacing-brown/

A Tory alternative is no alternative at all, and in some respects is the equivalent of people voting for McCain because Clinton didn’t win.

WBS, I’m not suggesting voting for the Tories or for McCain or for New Labour. I’m talking about a multi-election strategy where a new party or structure emerges. Afterall Labour would not be here now if not for the decline of the old Liberal party? So it certainly can be done.
Basically I don’t see how those on the left could continue support for the “most right wing government since the war” leading to an even worse alternative from the right. Only for the cycle continuing ad infinitum. I don’t see any of that as a real democratic choice and unfortunately I don’t see reform coming from within the Labour party.

The US comparison is apt I think in that it was Clinton and Gore that led to the ‘monster’ Bush. Under Clinton the Democrats lost 70 Congressional and Senate seats – and both houses of Congress – to the Republicans. The Clinton/Gore ticket led to Bush. ( http://sandiego.indymedia.org/en/2006/07/116537.shtml ) and the policies used by him. Despite mainstream received wisdom and our view of the Northern peace process input, there’s hardly a sliver of a difference between those administrations.

The same pattern is repeating with Obama. Obama’s Senior Working Group on National Security team is mostly made up of people who supported Clinton’s policies towards Iraq (Anthony Lake, Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright).* His views on Iran are well known and he continues to take on the Republicans policies.

*
Surprise! … Obama’s people are Clinton’s people

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37. Pax - June 29, 2008
38. Garibaldy - June 29, 2008

Pax,

My view on this is a pragmatic one, and I guess it’s similar to the view I take on American presidential elections. We would all like to see a left party emerge in the States, but it has to be built from the ground up, rather than a token vote for Nader or whoever every four years, especially if that vote means a more rather than less right government. In Britain, I’d like to see a left alternative emerge, but it must be built in the first instance at local levels and in targeted seats with a substantial left majority, rather than running candidates that might lose mariginal seats, until such time as a new formation began to emerge as a serious player. I think that’s what you mean by a mulit-election strategy though.

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39. WorldbyStorm - June 29, 2008

Can I add, I don’t think NL is the ‘most right wing government since the war’. That’s simply hyperbole. More right wing than any of the Thatcher terms? More than the 1950s Tory governments? Hardly. What it has been has been a government that has broadly been rhetorically and actively centrist but in specific areas pitched rightwards, Iraq, aspects of social policy, etc, etc. It’s also been massively inconsistent. For example there has been a level of redistribution in certain areas under NL, but rhetorically (and in fact) it has played a sub-entrepreneurial card of being ‘pro-business’ in a very received way, and entirely avoided any talk of redistribution. Worse again it has seemed to be entirely credulous as regards business. And worst of all it has eschewed being and talking left, saying ‘this is progressive leftism, this is what we stand for’ in favour of managerialism, efficiency, etc, etc. It hoped to win the middle classes and the non-ideological. You can’t win them, you can only borrow them. And in forgetting that it forgot its own base entirely, hence the absurdity of working class areas going Tory.

But the idea that a ‘new’ left force can emerge is not very convincing to me. Firstly voters aren’t going left, they’re going right, either to the LDs (who are a centre party admittedly, but I see them as centre centre right) and to the Conservatives. The time it would take for a new left to put down roots, etc would be years, decades most likely – consider how long it took NL to come to the fore. So for the moment the only vehicle in town is the LP, shorn of the NL trimmings. But whether that will happen is a moot point. To be honest I suspect we may be at the dawn of a rightwing period in UK political activity.

I really think NL threw it all away.

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40. WorldbyStorm - June 29, 2008

Pax, my apologies, the spam filter caught you cos of the link. Can I ask is there any way people know to bypass it for comments we want, such as your own Pax?

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41. Garibaldy - June 29, 2008

It’s not the most right wing ideologically. But in terms of traditional social democracy, Blair has reversed things Thatcher proved unable to do. So yay and nay on that one.

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42. WorldbyStorm - June 30, 2008

That’s true, and I’d certainly never argue that the NL govt. was traditional social democracy. The antithesis of it to some degree.

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43. Crocodile - June 30, 2008

The BNP got more votes than NL in the Henley by-election. I reckon Sinn Fein occupy the BNP space in Ireland, intensively cultivating working class areas and appealing to a kind of protest/nationalist vote that the big parties can’t touch.
On the one hand, this limits those parties to 10% or so of the vote; on the other, it removes that 10% from thetarget market of left wing/ labour type parties. I thought O’Toole thesis about tricksterism was far-fetched, too, but his central point – as I understand it – was accurate: that convincing many Irish people that they’re being antiestablishment will induce them to do almost anthing. It has been FF’s genius to keep this antiestablishment image, while clocking up decades in government.

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44. WorldbyStorm - June 30, 2008

Crocodile I’m actually quite convinced by your last point, particularly in relation to FF.

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45. Garibaldy - June 30, 2008

Yeah it’s a good one, and applies to both the DUP and the Provos in the north as well.

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46. Donagh - June 30, 2008

I don’t buy the anti-establishment idea,not in relation to the No vote anyway. It’s also the case that Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have given the impression that they are looking out for the little guy, so to speak. This requires hard work at the local level, which is matched with a high public profile of the party. It’s not much good I guess making promises at the local level if your party is not associated with getting things done at the national level. In the case of FF, intensive local activity is matched by a strong national profile especially as most of the time the f**kers are in government. Similarly, strong commitment from SF at local level is matched by their leaders prominent role in the Peace Process. As has been mentioned here before Adams was not very good in the last election and some of the wax started to melt.

While I think a core would always be likely to vote no, as you say, I don’t think that the anti-establishment idea was significant for many.

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47. Crocodile - June 30, 2008

I have a theory that Bertie has full explanations of all his financial dealings and full documentation for all his transactions – it’s just that he daren’t produce them for fear of losing face in Fianna Fail!

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48. Conor McCabe - July 1, 2008

FF´s decades-long support wasn’t based on an anti-establishment image. If you have to pick one thing thing, (simplistic I know, but still), it was more clientism than anything else, as was FG and Labour. I mean, the carve-up of land from the Irish land commission, from the 1920s onwards, depended on who was in government. From 1923 to 1932 Cumann na nGaedhael did the carving, and from 1932 to 1948 FF followed suit. Your party got in, you’re in with a chance for a slice from the Land commission. Irish governments were creating small farmers all the way up to the end of the Commission in the 1990s. Ok. it’s only one example of what clientism actually meant in the Southern Irish political system, but still, it can be hardly overlooked or waved away with an anti-establishment soundbite. The same point holds for so many other sectors of Irish life, from medical cards, planning permission, even to the late, lamented butter vouchers!

There’s a great tradition in rural irish political life of cursing dem fuckers up in Dublin – but dem fuckers up in Dublin vote FF, and in the past at least this was linked to the fact that FF housed a great portion of working class Dublin, as well as looking after the unions a lot better than any FG/Labour government. Crocodile, in order to accept the anti-establishment thesis for FF´s support, you have to reject a rake of materialist reasons for that support, and I don’t think it holds up.

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49. Conor McCabe - July 1, 2008

Sorry, one other point Is it really convincing to say that the Irish people looked at FF under de Valera, from 1927 up to 1959, and saw “anti-establishment”? That the Irish electorate looked to the author of the Irish constitution and went, yep, anti-establishment? And that they thought the same about FF under Sean Lemass, or Jack Lynch?

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50. Garibaldy - July 1, 2008

Conor,

Clientalism definitely the main thing. But in fairness, anti-establishment thing is part of the FF appeal when you think about Haughey and others. As for the 1930s etc, surely still a lot of view of the estbalihsment as ranchers, blueshirts, FG, even maybe protestants?

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51. Crocodile - July 1, 2008

I never thought the antiestablishment thing was the beginning and end of FF’s appeal, Conor, but it’s a factor. I bow to your knowledge of political history – I’m talking about psychology. Not being tax compliant when one of your fellow cabinet members is in charge of the economy, not cooperating with the tribunal when your own government set it up – there just doesn’t seem to them to be a contradiction there. The tribunals, the taxman, the law of the land – they’re only the ref, and sure don’t you get away with whatever you can in this game. But to be simultaneously ref and off-the-ball hatchetman: that takes some doing.
There’s no doubt that a part of the no vote on Lisbon – as both O’Toole and Waters diagnose – was a slightly adolescent wish to do the irreverent thing. I remember having mock elections in school to show us the intricacies of the PR system: Sinn Fein always polled really well, not because of our sophisticated political understanding, but because that’s what would annoy the teachers. The headmasterly tone of the yes campaign was duly followed with the time-honoured ‘we’re not angry, just disappointed’ reaction.

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52. Conor McCabe - July 1, 2008

Well, FF voters voting for FF in protest against FG, and FG voters voting for FG in protest against FF is a different thing to saying that people vote FF as a protest against the establishment. That’s just normal party rivalry. Also, FF lost seats under Haughey, and continued to lose them throughout the 1980s, and only started getting them back under Ahern. If anything, the Irish electorate turned away from FF under Haughey. To lose seats is hardly a worthy appeal.

And as for Haughey himself, he was hardly the man to hold back from the imagery of the landed gentleman – he even brought out his own movie, “Haughey´s Ireland”, proclaiming to all and sundry how much a part of the establishment he was.

There’s a popular image of Haughey as the outsider alright, but in terms of electoral appeal – safe, sober, establishment Jack Lynch gets the largest majority ever secured by a FF leader, while outsider Haughey loses all of that in his first election as leader, and never attains a majority of even one seat during his entire tenure as leader. I don’t see how given the facts of the party’s electoral history the thesis of anti-establishment as a defining element in FF’s electoral history stands up.

The 1930s are interesting as there’s a distinct class element to FF’s support. It’s during this time that FF gain their majority on the back of stealing Labour’s housing policy and, more importantly, implementing it. With regard to rural Ireland, FF get a chance to carve up the land commission’s allocations to their own supporters – something that CnaG had been doing for years.

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53. Conor McCabe - July 1, 2008

sorry Crocodile, I posted before I read your last comment, so my last comment is still in response to your second-last comment!

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54. Conor McCabe - July 1, 2008

I think there’s a lot of doubt about O’Toole and Water’s analysis that people voted no as a slightly adolescent thing. It seems to me that Waters and O’Toole are saying that the Irish people took a political document such as the Lisbon treaty and voted against it for apolitical reasons. They provide no evidence for that, but rather like Dev of old, they simply peer into the “Irish soul” and come up with their apolitical codswallop.

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55. WorldbyStorm - July 1, 2008

I sort of agree with you Conor, but it’s hard not to see the FF of Haughey say in the post 78 period through to 88ish as having a strong anti-establishment line. And politically this worked itself out in a sort of kind of nationalist line, re the Malvinas, extradition, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, as much as in other areas. Before, and indeed after there has been the clientalist (which was also a factor during those years I mention) and also ‘efficiency’ base to it. Haughey played the typical card of being not part of the political establishment while being up to his neck in it (through marriage, political position, etc). His rubber chicken circuit post-Arms Trial was very carefully calculated to build up his appeal as ‘not one of them’. Even though he was. I agree completely, in political terms he was a disaster – and a hypocrite, but it was a major part of his appeal.

Re LisbonI guess any campaign where ‘elites’ are proposed as part of the motivating force of a competing side is going to have an anti-establishment tinge (to greater or lesser extent) to it one way or another. It’s not, as Donagh and you say, the main thing, but it’s still there and not as a submerged strand.

Incidentally, I strongly agree that O’Toole/Waters are wrong about the ‘adolescent’ thing, but, I’m thinking anti-establishment thinking is a bit different…such thinking can be covered, and generally was/is by FF in the term ‘populist’…

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56. ejh - July 1, 2008

while outsider Haughey loses all of that in his first election as leader, and never attains a majority of even one seat during his entire tenure as leader

Might that be part of the key though? Minority governments produce fixers, which description includes people who say one set of things to one set of people and another to another and it’s accepted that they have to do that. You want straightforward leaders, you need majority governments. You have minorities, you get duckers and divers.

(Of course that may help to explain the character, but not the corruption, which tends to flourish much more in unchanging administrations – the Italian Christian Democrats would be a good example, as would many solid Old Labour boroughs. Perhaps there’s something in the nature of Fianna Fail, as the normal party of government and thus of advancement, which would help us there.)

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57. Crocodile - July 1, 2008

Maybe ‘adolescent’ has the wrong connotations, but I’m still convinced that a desire not to do what ‘they’ want us to do is a powerful motive in Irish voter behaviour. The problem with being anti-elitist – an admirable thing in itself – is identifying the elites in the first place. It was easier when they had big houses and cars and professions. But who are the elites now?
TV 3 is about to screen its version of the repulsive ‘Apprentice’ starring ‘Dr’ Bill Cullen in the Donald Trump part. Cullen’s schtick is that he’s got more in common with the plebeian viewer than he has with the ‘knobs’ – multi-millionaire, but no airs and graces.
On Sunday Declan Kiberd identified workers in companies like the ESB, who earn well over the industrial average, as a ‘labour aristocracy’ , the kind of elite that Cowan needs to tackle to get the economy back on track. Media figures, especially if tinged with liberalism, are also accused of membership.
So there it is: Charlie Haughey and Bill Cullen are not members of the elite; Fintan O’Toole and Homer Simpson are.

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58. Bartholomew - July 1, 2008

Off topic, but you might be interested:

Perry Anderson is giving a public lecture in Dublin tonight (July 1) on “After Hegemony? The world since 1989”. It’s in the National Gallery at 8.

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59. Pete - July 1, 2008

Declan Kiberd is a little green alcoholic gnome – of course he wants workers with stable employment to be dislodged – all the better for capital – just as he wanted the WP undermined by the Provos – this country suffers from a complete rightwing hegemony in all facets of civil society – apart from the unions – in my opinion all we should be doing on the left is revealing the underlying positions of these scum and getting stuck into them – starting firstly with the Nuevo feudal gombeen aristocracy of Fianna Fail (or in the that memorial phrase of N17 ‘lumpen bourgeois’) – this scum of course push the line they are anti-establishment and to an extent they are – they are anti the law – both of the criminal and moral variety – it dismay’s me when people even discuss Haughey as having any political beliefs beyond rapine

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60. CL - July 1, 2008

The ‘elitist’ them vs. the (usually) ‘populist’ us is a common ploy of the right.
“Conservative intellectuals who rose to prominence during the Reagan administration managed the neat trick of reversing the ’60s usage of “elite” by applying it as a slur to the left alone.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/30/opinion/30jacoby.html?scp=1&sq=susan+jacoby+elitism&st=nyt

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61. Donagh - July 1, 2008

Without getting into the nuance of the many fine points made above I would say that Haughey’s public image as ‘anti-establishment’ came when he was contrasted with Garret FitzGerald, who was most definitely part of the Irish ‘aristocracy’. His greed was part of this, as he didn’t have money to begin with but acquired it along the way and end up living like a lord. That a middle class accountant from Donnycarney could rub shoulders with the Catholic ascendancy is not anti-establishment. But what seems to be ignored here is that many Irish working class people vote Fianna Fail. To say they do so out an anti-establishment feeling is a bit, well, self-serving. Just like O’Toole’s analysis.

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62. Joe - July 1, 2008

There’s definitely room for several theses on how FF have maintained their stranglehold on the working class vote (and the vote generally) through the generations. However, rather than try to research and write one, I say it was a mastery of clientelism.
I remember having a conversation with a WP supporter in Kilbarrack in the late 80s. He was out of work as were an awful lot of people in the area at the time. The FÁS office in Coolock was mentioned in the conversation and he said to me “That’s a Fianna Fáil cumann.” I had some minor dealings with FÁS in that general area in subsequent years and I picked up that the staff member I was dealing with was an active FF member as were a fair few of his co-workers. So FF got local people onto FÁS employment schemes and got their votes in return. Replicate that around the country with other state agencies and a lot of small to medium private enterprises – and bingo, pretty much one party rule for generations.
Anyone remember the Phoenix cover when Gorbachev stopped off at Shannon? It was a photo of Gorby and Haughey waving from the steps of the plane. Gorby says to Haughey: “We’re thinking of getting rid of the one-party state.” Haughey replies: “It always worked well enough for us here.”

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63. WorldbyStorm - July 1, 2008

I’d also tend to agree with that re Haughey’s public image, Donagh. there’s no doubting that that was part of it. Mind you GFG also played on it re comments like flawed pedigree… (he later recanted, but… many a word said in jest…)

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64. Conor McCabe - July 1, 2008

Crocodile, sorry for taking what was a minor point of yours and running with it. I know you have a lot more to say on this subject than just “anti-establishment”.

It’s one thing to say that part of Haughey’s appeal was his anti-establishment image – an image that was foisted upon him within FF as he was part of the young turks who entered the party without the “aristotratic” background – in FF terms – of coming from a family with direct links to the GPO in 1916 et al. (and that “aristocratic” Irish republican background includes Garret Fitzgerald as well, as Donagh pointed out.)

It’s another to say that the popularity of FF as a political party can be explained in anti-establishment terms. Popularity of Haughey, yeah maybe an element of it (he was a gun-runner after all, albeit one lacking the ‘hands on’ approach of a Martin Ferris), but popularity of FF, no. In fact, when both merged, FF lost out to the benefit of Haughey.

When an “anti-establishment” figure became head of FF, the party lost seats. It didn’t gain them. In fact, a spilt eventually opened with no small influence on the formation of the PDs. What works to explain Charlie, falls apart when used to explain FF.

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